NBC: Must-See or Smut-See?
by L. Brent Bozell III
Last week's issue of the New Yorker reported that
"recently, the [television] networks have begun to ask themselves a novel
question: What if we take a stab at the fresh, the daring, the alternative?
Not long ago, NBC's entertainment president, Warren Littlefield, gave all his
executives granite stones engraved with a single word: 'Risk.'"
Having watched as much as I could stand of the first two
nights of NBC's premiere-week programming, and then taken a much-needed
shower, I can conclude only that Littlefield picked the wrong four-letter word
to engrave on those stones. A far more appropriate choice would have been
NBC kicks off its fall season with the sitcom "Suddenly
Susan" on Monday, September 21, at 8 p.m. By about, oh, 8:03, Luis is
telling two of his co-workers that Maddie "asked me to sleep with her
tonight. Is it the right thing to do or is it just my pants talking?"
They don't sleep together, but the next day, she says to him, "If you had
come up, it probably would have led to a night of such wild and unbridled
passion, we would still be lying there, a tangled heap of sweaty, quivering,
satisfied flesh." A bit later, a newlywed addresses her husband:
"All I want to do right now is rip off what's left of my clothes, throw
you into that bed, and not come out till there's peace in the Middle
This is the family hour on the Nothing But Coitus network.
At 8:30 comes "Conrad Bloom," a debuting series
about a hunky ad executive in his late twenties. Needing to postpone a tryst
with Alison, Conrad phones to inform her he hates to bail out, since
"this was gonna be our third date, and you know what that means?
Oh, well, if I have to tell you, maybe it doesn't mean that."
(Ultimately, they do have sex.) As for mere suggestiveness, there's an
exchange between Conrad and his female boss, apropos of a colleague
breast-feeding her infant daughter in front of them. The baby bites her
mother's nipple, whereupon the boss remarks, "I hate when they do
that." Conrad says, "I didn't know you had kids"; the boss
counters, "I don't."
Can it get any more stupid than this? Well,
Nine o'clock brings "Caroline in the City," on
which Annie walks in on a naked Richard and comments, "That reminds me. I
need to buy toothpicks." Later, Caroline tells Richard - they've just
become a couple-- that they should wait two months for their first lovemaking.
When he asks why, she replies, "Because it's far enough away so we won't
feel like we're rushing, and soon enough so we won't go crazy." (The
truthful answer would have been, "Because two months from now will be
during the November sweeps, and our sleeping together will boost the
Finally, at 9:30 we get "Will & Grace," the
heavily hyped premiere featuring a gay male lead character, and why bother.
There you have it: Monday's "fresh" and "daring"
The next night at 8, "Mad About You" centers on
Paul taking Viagra and walking around Manhattan with a very obvious erection.
On "Just Shoot Me" at 9, Dennis has sex with his boss's child's
nanny. At one point, they wonder what to do about a stain they've left on the
couch and decide to simply turn the cushion over. By 9:30, column or no
column, you just can't stomach any more of this nonsense.
What makes this all the more remarkable is that NBC is
pushing this mindless garbage, this filthy, silly, pathetic tripe, in a most
deliberate way. Christopher Lloyd, executive producer and head writer of
"Frasier," commented to the New York Times, "The pressure we
get is [to] mak[e] the show racier, not less racy. There's a huge amount of
impetus to make things edgy... not to avoid sensitive subjects."
So the lemming-rush into the gutter continues. Littlefield's
granite gifts could one day serve as tombstones for the networks that were too
dumb to realize they were alienating millions and, thereby, killing
Meanwhile, some three thousand miles away, the oh-so-serious
scribes at NBC News are bemoaning the release of the Starr report as offensive
and damaging to impressionable youngsters.
You don't know whether to laugh, or cry. Or just put a brick
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Write to Brent Bozell
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